John Padgett has had the top job at Princess Cruises since October last year. With his feet now firmly under the table and a new MedallionClass ship hitting the open seas, what does the future hold for him and the tech-savvy cruise line?
Upon being announced as Princess Cruises president, John Padgett spoke of his pride at being given the chance to lead the brand and “take the cruise content – including hotel, food and beverage, entertainment, merchandise and destination experiences – to new levels”.
Of course, Padgett is no stranger to the line, having been chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival Corporation prior to his promotion. During that time, he was a driving force behind the development and introduction of Medallion technology across the Princess fleet.
Now a fundamental part of the line’s offering, MedallionClass has come to signify the cruise sector’s leap into a tech-driven industry.
“MedallionClass is taking some of the world’s largest cruise ships, with thousands of guests and crew members, and making sure the experience feels unique to each guest,” he tells Cruise Trade News.
“Medallion innovation takes the entire experience back to the roots of what makes cruising special by creating a personalised, customised and simplified holiday for each and every guest. One of the most exciting elements of it is that it’s a scalable platform that allows us to continuously evolve.”
A Medallion evolution
This scalability has been in evidence recently, with the launch of the line’s final Royal-class ship, Discovery Princess (sailing in March). The 3,660-guest vessel is the latest Medallion ship and proves the line has no intention of putting the brakes on its innovation.
In February, it also unveiled the latest addition to the MedallionClass project, with an expansion of MedallionPay allowing guests to use the Medallion wearable device to make contactless payments in ports of call in the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and Alaska.
Guests will also receive seven per cent back on shoreside purchases as on-board credit – “this is only the beginning, with more destinations and merchants being added in the near future”, Padgett says.
Rowing back slightly, Padgett highlights the fundamental aspects of the platform that continue to prove popular with guests, not least keyless stateroom entry. “On top of this, personalised greetings on the stateroom door portals welcome guests and note any special milestones they may be celebrating, such as birthdays and anniversaries,” he explains.
“Then we have our shipmate and venue locator experience – OceanCompass – which has been a game-changer for families and groups on board, but even more so for anyone traveling with a companion who has memory problems. All the anxiety over having a loved one wander off is removed, as they can be found in an instant thanks to the technology.”
Personalising the cruise experience
At every point in the Medallion development, launch and subsequent deployment across the fleet, Princess Cruises has been keen to stress the personalisation that it offers, seeing this as a key selling point.
Padgett brings this to life: “I recently heard a lovely story about one couple from Canada who was blown away when the entertainer in one of our lounges dedicated a special song to them by name to wish them a happy anniversary, because she knew these guests were seated in her audience and could identify where they were from and that they were celebrating their anniversary.”
This hyper-personalisation has long been touted as the next step in cruise’s evolution and Padgett is keen to see this as a positive when it’s put to him that perhaps a heavy reliance on technology could dilute the traditional cruise experience.
“It allows guests to enjoy more of what makes cruising so great to begin with because it strips out the complexities and hassles of the traditional experience – like waiting in line, getting lost on board or being unable to locate a travel party.”
What about the competition? Lines are showing real eagerness to ‘take the next step’, for want of a better phrase. Padgett, it seems, is not overly concerned.
“MedallionClass is guest-centric versus technology-focused, so instead of requiring guests to engage in the technology, they can be engaged in the cruise while the technology empowers and enhances the experience completely behind the scenes,” he says. “The Medallion is the only medium a guest will need throughout their trip.”
It’s not only guests who are benefitting, according to Padgett. He sees the device and platform as a useful tool for travel agents, too. “It will help agents to emphasise the elements of a Princess cruise with the things their clients value most. For example, if a guest is focused on safety, agents can highlight all the numerous contactless elements on and off the ship.
“If they want to be pampered, agents can talk about the service on-demand capabilities so guests can have whatever they want, delivered to them wherever they are on board. If the client needs to remain connected to their job while on holiday, assurance of the best wifi at sea – MedallionNet – is a big win.”
Padgett and Princess Cruises will be hoping for many more big wins over the coming years, and it’s a safe bet that Medallion technology will be at the heart of whatever the line has in store.